SOHR exclusive | “Turkey seeks to get rid of Syrian refugees in order to exert pressure on Europe and establish a ‘safe zone’ even by driving them to a holocaust” say politicians
The statement by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on preparations for settling one million Syrian people in north Syria has ignited broad anger in that predominantly-Kurdish region, amid concerns about triggering civil war, especially since this area which is under the control of pro-Ankara factions has been witnessing growing tension and security chaos.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has warned against this evil plot which will exacerbate the situation further, and has asserted the importance of countering Erdogan’s efforts to change the demography in north Syria region.
SOHR also has affirmed the importance to defend the identity of each Syrian region, confirming that all segments and constituents of Syrian society have been all along living together with no discrimination. We, at SOHR, warn against the efforts by some players to wreak havoc through fuelling ethnic hatred and inciting sectarian strife.
In an exclusive SOHR interview, the member of the political bureau of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Bashar Amin says “since the beginning of military operations in Ukraine, Turkey has played a key role in exacerbating the Syrian crisis through starting communications with the Syrian regime. The Turks seek to pass amendments to Adana Agreement, serving their narrow interests through expanding the agreed-on zone in which Turkey has the right to chase the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) suspects five km deep into Syria along the Syria-Turkey border, into 30 km and starting new understandings with USA.”
Mr. Bashar has noted that Ankara attempts to revive the plan of establishing a “safe zone” in Syrian territory under the pretext of “defending its border,” before repatriating a part of Syrian refugees who are now in Turkey with the aim of settling them in that zone, especially since these efforts and procedures are funded by other countries, such as Qatar. Accordingly, Turkey can get rid of a large part of refugees and prepare for establishing that zone, disregarding the fact that these refugees are being driven to a holocaust, according to Mr. Amin.
Bashar Amin added, “these refugees are in need of security protection, as well as live-in care. Furthermore, this step comes as a part of changing the demography of these areas. Accordingly, neither Syrian refugees nor indigenous inhabitants of this region welcome Turkey’s new scheme.”
On the other hand, the member of the public council of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), Mohamed Amin tells SOHR, “Turkey’s efforts to repatriate one million Syria refugees are damming evidence on the falseness of rhetoric press releases by Turkey regarding the situation of Syrian refugees whom it has exploited for years, after turning their issue into a bargaining chip. There are serious and evil objectives behind Erdogan’s plan to settle one million Syrian refugee in tens of settlements which have been established recently in areas controlled by the occupying power, Turkey, and its proxy mercenaries in north Syria region.
Mr. Mohamed has remarked that the Turkish “Justice and Development Party” seeks to export the interior crisis to Syria in order to ease the pressure exerted by the opposition in Turkey regarding the issue of Syrian refugees. “This project seems to be an extortion, where Erdogan is exerting pressure on the European Union and human rights organisations in order to gain new prerogatives. Moreover, Erdogan has exploited the Russian-Ukrainian war to pass his terrorist policy with the aim to change the demography of the areas of Afrin, Azaz, Al-Bab, Tel Abyad, Sere Kaniye and all areas which have become breeding grounds for atrocities committed by extremist, racist and terrorist organisations in north Syria region,” added Mr. Mohamed.
Speaking to SOHR, the human rights activist, Marwan Al-Ish says, “Syrians have raised issues and topics which they have been deprived from at the political and social levels, and they have protested the dictatorial practices and the state of the ‘farm’ since 1980. They have peacefully put forward their demands, including the freedom of public expression and freedom of practicing political activity under partisan law meeting their national aspiration, as well as the release of all political detainees, control of security services, holding violators accountable and applying of the articles of constitution. However, Al-Assad regime faced these demands with extreme power and violence, killing, oppressing and arresting peaceful and unarmed demonstrators indiscriminately. The regime tried every possible way to abort the national peaceful uprising, and these practices have been dramatically evolved into a war by the Syrian regime on Syrian people. The protracted war which has been raging for over a decade has left unbelievable destruction in most of Syria. In addition, millions of Syrian people have been forced to displace inside and outside Syria and thousands others were arrested and killed by Al-Assad regime and its proxy militias, while neither perpetrators have been held accountable nor the fate of the detainees, kidnapped and forcibly disappeared has been revealed.”
“Being the first choice for Syrians fleeing the scourge of war in Syria and searching for a safe haven, especially with the common family relations in the two countries and similarity in religion, customs and traditions, Turkey has received millions of Syrians, whether those who intended to reside in Turkey or those who decided to continue their way to another European country. With the escalation of immigration of Syrians to Europe by sea and by land through Turkey, European countries started to exert pressure on Turkey in 2016 to stop allowing immigration of Syrians to Europe when they reached a deal with Erdogan stipulating that Turkey would be granted a yearly financial support of six billion USD in return of securing residence and housing Syrian refugees in camps in Turkey or to allow them to live with Turkish people together, as well as providing material and medical support and food supplies for every Syrian citizen in Turkey. The largest number of refugees in Turkey has been documented in 2017 due to the considerable escalation of violence and killing in Syria. In that year, 2017, the number of Syrian refugees was estimated to be four million citizens. Several civil society activists, political parties and racist Turkish individuals opposing the presence of Syrian and refugees in general have stated and expressed that the Syrian refugees’ presence in Turkey which lasted for years has become unwelcome. Accordingly, the presence of Syrian refugees in Turkey has topped the agendas of Turkish right-wing parties, such as the Republican People’s Party, the Victory Party and the New Turkey Party, which have pinpointed the responsibility for the recent economic hardship in Turkey on the large number of Syrian refugees in their country, attempting to change the rules of the political game in Turkey and weaken the popularity of the Justice and Development Party which has been in power since 2004,” added Marwan Al-Ish.
Mr. Marawan has stated that the issue of Syrian refugees has been all along the “golden” bargaining chip which several players have combated each other to benefit from. However, only Syrian refugees have paid the cost of these attempts, as they have been struggling with mistreatment, obstacles and challenges to obtain residence and other services, such as medical care and education, since 2017, according to Mr. Marwan.
The activist clarified that “before the presidential elections in Turkey scheduled to be held in 2023, all Turkish parties are fighting to demonstrate their patriotism and show the credentials to their candidates to repatriate Syrians to unsafe areas controlled by the Syrian regime with no guarantees. The Justice and Development Party has been carrying on with its project to establish thousands of small residential units to house one million Syrian refugees after deportation from Turkey. Syrian refugees reject this scheme. They have been all along calling for returning to their cities, towns and villages which the Syrian regime had forced them to leave when it decided to shower them with thousands of barrel bombs and Russian missiles, let alone its fierce clashes with Syrian factions and its policy of arbitrary arrests and systematic torture. North Syria region belongs to an essential constituent of Syrian society and indigenous inhabitants and has its unique identity, and all these features must be respected and protected by law and traditions. There have been compelling reasons behind the internal displacement from Syrian provinces, including Damascus, Rif Dimashq, Daraa, Homs, Deir Ezzor and Al-Raqqah, and this kind of displacement will not last forever. All Syrians are looking forward to reaching a political settlement based on the International Resolution No. 2254, according to which a political transition can be implemented under international and UN supervision.”